If you have suffered an injury or injuries because of the negligence of another, you may file a personal injury suit to seek compensation. A successful personal injury suit must establish liability (who’s responsible for the injury) and damages (what’s the cost of the injury). If you are new to this process, read on. This article contains a simple explanation of a personal injury suit, including examples.
What is liability, and how is it established?
Liability is the state of being legally responsible for something. It is the legal name for accountability. Establishing liability is the process of documenting who is to blame for a negative outcome.
Legal precedent mandates that five elements must all be present in order to prove that someone acted with negligence and is therefore legally responsible (liable) for a resulting injury. The five elements are:
- Duty. For example, a store owner has the duty to customers to make sure a rotten roof does not collapse on their heads. A homeowner does not have the same duty to protect a burglar who is trespassing on private property when a rotten roof collapses.
- Breach of Duty. Breach of duty refers to a defendant who knowingly fails to protect others. For example, the store owner in the previous example would have a distinct breach duty if she knew the roof was dangerous and failed to fix it.
- Cause in Fact. This means that the defendant’s breach of duty was the actual cause of the injury. If the store owner’s roof was indeed weak, but it collapsed because a helicopter landed on the roof, then the helicopter, not the rotten roof, was the cause.
- Proximate Cause. The defendant must be able to foresee the connection that her actions might have to the injury. For example, if the store owner had hired a roofing company to fix her rotten roof, but the company had failed to meet building regulations, then the shop owner cannot be held responsible for the roof’s collapse. However, if it can be shown that the shop owner knowingly hired a faulty or fake roofing company in order to save money on roof repairs, then the shop owner would maintain liability.
- Damages. The plaintiff must prove that she has suffered verifiable damage. If the rotten roof collapses at the shop, but the defendant was not inside the shop, then he has no grounds for a lawsuit.
Establishing liability is often the primary focus of the accident injury lawyer or legal team representing the plaintiff. Once your lawyer agrees to take the case, it is his or her duty to establish liability. Establishing liability can be a technical, complex process, and often involves multiple personal injury and product liability laws. A personal injury lawyer who accepts your case has reason to believe that liability can be successfully established. Once liability has been established, then the question is not whether you will receive compensation, but how much.
How much compensation will I receive for my injury?
Ah, the big question for clients is “how much?” It only makes sense that you would be hesitant to embark on a legal journey if there is not a reasonable chance that your time will be worthwhile.
Damages come in two varieties: economic and noneconomic. Economic damages are exact dollar amounts that you lost or spent as a result of the injury. Examples of economic damages are medical bills, future medical bills, lost wages, and future lost wages. Noneconomic damages include the pain and suffering that you experience as a result of the injury. Examples of noneconomic damages include (but are not limited to): scarring, disfigurement, humiliation, loss of companionship, loss of enjoyment, mental anguish, and psychological trauma.
How can noneconomic damages (pain and suffering) be determined as a specific monetary amount? Lawyers traditionally use one of two methods to suggest an estimated amount. The first method is called the multiplier method. Lawyers multiply the economic damages by a certain amount, typically between 1.5 and 5. If economic damages are determined to be $10K, then this amount could be multiplied by 2 if the pain and suffering are deemed to be moderate, or by 5 (or, in rare instances, even more) if the pain and suffering are deemed to be intense.
A second method for determining pain and suffering involves a per diem sum. For example, it may be suggested that a plaintiff be awarded a certain amount of money for every day that they experienced pain and suffering as a result of the negligence of another.
In a personal injury trial, the personal injury lawyers may suggest an amount of money that they feel their client deserves to be compensated, but the jury decides. There are no rubrics or charts used to determine pain and suffering. In most states, juries are instructed by the judge to determine a reasonable figure based on their [the jury members’] common sense and combined life experience. Thus, the jury is ultimately responsible for determining how much money a plaintiff should receive for their pain and suffering.
The total compensation that a plaintiff wins from a successful personal injury lawsuit is a sum of money that represents both the economic and noneconomic damages that are determined by the juries.
If you think a personal injury lawsuit might be the right option for you, talk to our experienced team of Las Vegas accident attorneys. We will review your case for free and help you build the strongest suit possible so that you can receive the compensation that you deserve.